AT LARGE: The seven year itch

AT LARGE: The seven year itch

There's something they don't tell you before you get married: it's really hard to type with a wedding ring on. The third finger of my left hand, normally responsible for such mundane duties as the letter "e", has become a blunt, inaccurate instrument with which to operate a keyboard and I've been reduced to hunt-and-peck with two fingers. I presume this becomes easier with time, otherwise I'll have to make the painful choice between my wedding ring and my career as a typist.

Speaking of problematic mergers becoming easier with time (how's that for a segue?), I read this morning that Lotus is about to upgrade Notes and a range of other groupware products to integrate better with IBM's WebSphere, Tivoli systems management and DB2 database products. This makes good sense, of course - IBM is Lotus's parent company, having acquired it at great expense some seven years ago. As well as money (some 3.5 billion greenbacks), IBM knowingly sacrificed a degree of goodwill in the industry when it took over a well-known and well-liked independent developer in such a hostile and monopolistic fashion.

And before any IBM feathers get ruffled, please remember that I'm new to this wedding ring and much of the above may well be a typo.

At the time, IBM assuaged its critics by promising that Lotus Development would remain an independent entity, and that its CEO would retain full autonomy. Apparently Big Blue believes that six years is long enough for people to forget such promises, and last year it rolled Lotus into the mainstream IBM organisation, changing its name to IBM Lotus Software and demoting its CEO to the position of "general manager". I could be wrong, of course, but this seems a bummer.

Paradoxically, most of the people who thought IBM's acquisition of Lotus was a good thing were mainly looking forward to the building of a "power brand" incorporating Lotus's collaborative expertise with IBM's enterprise and e-business systems. That integration has also taken seven years to achieve.

I can imagine why. Having just managed my own merger (of sorts), I know the problems involved in gradually winning over the approval of impending in-laws, cultural differences, and of course, the long, slow process of getting to know each other and making sure it's the right thing to do. I suspect that IBM and Lotus made a mistake in merging before they worked all these details out (between you and me, I suspect they "had" to get married, if you know what I mean).

Now that it's done, of course, I wish them all the best.

The pitter-patter of tiny feet is just Matthew JC. Powell's keyboard. Congratulate him at

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